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Issue No. 234 20 August 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

True Lies
While the Prime Minister's penchant for the porky finally appears to be catching up with him, perhaps the biggest lie of his leadership remains largely unchallenged.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Trading Places
New ACTU International Officer Alison Tate cut her teeth delivering aid to developing nations through APHEDA. Now she is helping chart the global union agenda.

Safety: Snow Job
James Hardie has been drilled into our collective consciousness as a story of power, greed and immorality. It is also, as Jim Marr reports, a tale of human tragedy.

Politics: In the Vanguard
Damien Cahill reveals how neo-liberal think tanks have been at the forefront of the corporate assault upon trade unions and social movements in Australia.

Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Don’t get between Sydney sparkie Semir Pepic and a gold medal in a dimly lit alley, writes Tim Brunero.

Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
Perfect Porker, Darren Vincent, brings a history of meat worker shafting to this month’s Bad Boss nomination.

International: Cruising For A Bruising
Europe’s big unions are bruised as they watch companies roll over some of their best-organised unionised workplaces demanding longer work hours – without any recompense, reports Andrew Casey.

History: Under the Influence
Was John Kerr drunk when he wrote and signed the letter dismissing Edward Gough Whitlam from the Prime Ministership in 1975? Geraldine Willissee investigates.

Economics: Working Capital
Where superannuation fits, where it fails and what we should we do about it. Neale Towart gives the tough answers.

Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
There's many a must see moment in Mike Moore's new flick but beating the propaganda machine at its own game wreaks havoc with wearied bullshit detectors, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
When Flood washed away the PM's sins, the truth was once again left high and dry.

Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
During a recent visit to an elderly relative in a nursing home, I was waylaid by an ancient gentleman who insisted I listen to what he had to say, writes Rowan Cahill.

N E W S

 Hardie Chiefs Dodge Findings

 Virgin Wants Them Young

 RTA Counts Cheapie Cost

 Miners Trump Rio Gold

 Suits Star in Big Steel

 Boffins Back Sweatshops

 Tony Winner Bags an Ernie

 Bush Fires Up

 Kiwis Unfriendly, say Aussie Bankers

 CPSU in Pay Cut Territory

 Brains Over Buns Claim

 AIG Backs "Cowards"

 BHP Makes A Killing

 Schools Fight for Equity

 Activists What's On!

C O L U M N S

Parliament
The Westie Wing
The Labor Governments in each State must take the lead to stop the abuse of corporate law in Australia in the absence of action from the Federal Government, as the Inquiry into James Hardie’s has highlighted, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Cleaners Deserve Our Support
It's time the state's cleaners were given some support, loyalty and long service leave, writes Chris Christodoulou.

The Locker Room
Half Time At The Football
Phil Doyle wants to have his pie and eat it too.

Tribute
Faithful Servant
Frank Mossfield was one of the labour movement’s quiet achievers. Former Labor Council secretary Michael Easson pays tribute.

Postcard
Lessons From East Timor
Just back from a study tour to East Timor, National Reserach Officer with the Construction division of the CFMEU, Ben Stirling, writes about the experience for Workers Online.

L E T T E R S
 Howard Minor Goes Bush
 Dummy Spitting
 Tom Relieves Himself
 Optimism
 System Screws Workers
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

RTA Counts Cheapie Cost


The RTA’s commitment to low-price contractors backfired when 20 workers downed tools, this week, to protect themselves and the public from deadly asbestos.

The safety standoff halted progress on a new busway out of Blacktown in Sydney’s west.

CFMEU activists swooped on the site, where 47 fibro houses were being demolished, after public complaints about the smashing of asbestos sheeting, and the lack of perimeter fencing.

They discovered workers hadn't been issued with protective equipment or received "rudimentary" training in asbestos handling or general safety.

CFMEU secretary, Andrew Ferguson, called on the Roads and Traffic Authority to lift its game by taking compliance records into account when assessing tenders.

"The RTA keeps handing these jobs to blatant shonks on the basis of cost," Ferguson said. "It was caught red-handed at Liverpool, in similar circumstances earlier this year, now this blows up.

"It feels it has to award work to the absolute cheapest tenderer but, when you are dealing with safety, cheapest is very rarely best. You don't have to be an industry expert to know human lives are at stake when you are handling asbestos."

Ferguson said the RTA had awarded the demolition contract to Coastal Developments which, in turn, sub-contracted the job.

"In addition to the serious OH &S breaches, the union uncovered workers compensation fraud, taxation irregularities and non compliance with superannuation and award entitlements," Ferguson said.

He also queried the "disinterest" of the federal government's Building Industry Taskforce in the Blacktown "rorts".

The union is demanding that the contractor be sacked and that the work, and workforce, be taken over by a competent asbestos removal company.

Labor Council is seeking an urgent meeting with Roads Minister Carl Scully about RTA tendering policies.

Miners Trump Rio's Millions

Five Queensland miners have returned to work after a six-year battle against Rio Tinto.

The Industrial Relations Commission found the five were unfairly dismissed from a central Queensland coal mine in an act of "victimisation" by the company.

Ned Appleton, Athol Finger, Don Halverson, Morgan Lindley and Bryan Walsh have all been reinstated, while two other men will start at the Hail Creek mine in October.

Health reasons precluded three other miners from returning to the industry.

Appleton says the men are looking forward to returning to work at the Blair Athol mine.

"The brave and victimised Blair Athol coal mine workers finally received justice," says Bruce Watson of the CFMEU mining division. "That these men and their families should have been subjected to almost six-years of victimisation and all the hardships that brings is a disgrace."

"That their unfair dismissal case could be dragged on for that long by a vindictive and powerful multinational is a gross miscarriage of justice inflicted on the Australian community by the Howard Government's rotten industrial laws."

Watson pointed out that the laws provide no time limit on unfair dismissal cases and allow only a maximum six months wages in compensation for workers found to have been unfairly dismissed.

"Under Howard's laws, an ordinary worker, doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell against a corporate giant like Rio Tinto," says Watson. "Our Union estimates that Rio spent in excess of $6 million in legal fees to keep out the Blair Athol 16."

Doctor No

The full bench of the AIRC in handing down its decision slammed the use of dodgy medical reasons to victimise staff.

The decision singled out the practices of Dr Peter Fenner, the nominated medical adviser for a number of Rio Tinto mines in Central Queensland.

The decision criticised Dr Fenner for being evasive and changing his evidence; being contradictory in his approach to medical examinations; having a poor understanding of his legal obligations as a nominated medical advisor; and exaggerating his professional status (i.e. claiming to be a specialist when he was not).

Fenner was involved in assessing whether miners were fit to return to work.


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